Where I Change My Mind About The ACA

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Gentle Reader,

A very brief update because 1-I haven’t done anything interesting and 2-I’m busy today.

I went out yesterday, braving the cold for twenty whole feet to the cafe at the bottom of my building. Where I found a salad without mayonnaise or pickled fish. My vitamin deficiencies are starting to dissipate now. (But I still love the potatoes and the meat and the bread, so please don’t ever change, Russian Cuisine.)

And then today, before venturing out for Georgian food for lunch (because it remains awesome), another person here at the office needed to go to the Abteka (pharmacy) for a knee brace-thing. I went along because there was food happening after the knee-thing happened. I WAS PURELY A SPECTATOR.

And there are worse things in medicine, people, than the Affordable Care Act. I have survived being an observer at the Abteka, and I live to tell the tale. I have had surgeries less invasive than merely being a silent entourage member at the Abteka. Things were put on my feet, I was shuffled around to many different places to sit, I was treated to displays of the latest in Russian bladder-control products, things were shouted at me, I understood none of it. I need a drink.

And now, after our lolz, to give this post a tiny bit of gravitas (as much gravitas as a post about Russian bladder-control product displays can have)-how terrifying must it be to need medical care in a foreign place? To feel as though one cannot access medical care when one needs it due to the fact that they are not “supposed” to be in a place?

I do not pretend to have the solution, I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of a complex problem. I do know that the problem is not nearly as simple as the American right would have us believe, nor is the solution. I do know that if we are to continue to ask the world for her poor and downtrodden? Our rhetoric absolutely must change.

Back to the funny tomorrow.


I Always Got An M & M’s Blizzard

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Gentle Reader,


When I was little, every summer, my Gamma would register me for the Irwin County (Georgia) (The state, not the country, since THIS IS APPARENTLY MY LIFE, NOW…) Public Library Summer Reading Program.  Which to me was basically like a program that rewarded you for breathing.

Anyway, at the end of the program, we got coupons for Dairy Queen for successful completion.  Filling out the summer was time on the slip ‘n slide, fried chicken, and “jello in the special cups”.  (Don’t worry, those are in storage, Matthew.)  We also ate our meals at The Little Table And Chairs (also, in storage) and slept in The Tent at nights and were basically so dirty at the end of each day that we were hosed off instead of being carried inside for normal, human baths.  (I had a very fancy upbringing.)

This is my world, this is what I know.  These?  Are my people.  I love them.

So last night, I walked down Tverskaya Street (OF COURSE…) to a bar.  Where I sat at a table with a Brit who has lived in Dubai, France, parts of Africa, and is being transferred now to East Timor.  (To which I say, again, “OF COURSE”.)  Alongside her were an Uzbek who has lived in London and now in Russia (and she drives in Moscow, which makes her the bravest person I have ever met), an Aussie, a guy from the French Caribbean, a dual US/UK citizen (who has also lived in Alabama which is sorta like living in another country), a guy from Florida, and me.  ME.

How did this happen?  I mean, how does a girl like me get to this?  I welcome all answer submissions, because I’m fresh out.

Also at the bar I ordered a dirty vodka martini (you’ll want to put your drink down right about now, Ashley).  I received a dirty vodka martini made with vodka, vermouth, and olive oil.  (told you, dear)  So I’ll be modifying my drink order slightly from here out, because even I can’t convince myself that a martini needs a dash of salad dressing.

I gotta be real here.  I read about East Timor in my International Business Transactions class.  It’s a PLACE YOU READ ABOUT.  Not have drinks with someone last night who is EN ROUTE THERE RIGHT NOW.  Again.  HOW?

Anyway-I picked up the interior of the flat for you, because clearly that’s WAY more fascinating than Tverskaya after dark.  (In my defense, I don’t have my iPhone with me all the time right now because I don’t have a Russian telephone number yet, and I still haven’t figured out that I live somewhere that people might want to see via the actual, good, camera.)


The other Wellie made it out of the suitcase alive.



The “Auxilliary Dresser”.  (I was apparently in a dark mood as I was packing.)


Where the magic happens.  (Note the very warm comforter.)


View #1 of the Super-Sweet Bathroom.  Disorganized and whatnot, but sweet.  (Note the hairdryer and hot rollers.)



View #2-The tub.  Source of hot water.  Glorious.



And here we have my favorite triumvirate.  (Quadrumvirate?)  1-A refrigerator that actually makes things cold.  2-Ice cream.  3.  Vodka.  (Obvs.)  and 4.  THE ICE TRAYS!  (PLURAL!)

And finally, peeps who speak the language…a bit of reassurance, please?



This is aloe vera (I think?)–but is it soap?  I’ve been using it to wash my dishes because I haven’t found Fairy yet.  Whatever, it makes bubbles and seems to make my dishes clean.

And with that, I have a student, so Imma close now.  School on Monday.  Then onto the more interesting things.  Somebody remind me to bring my camera!

I’m lucky, peeps.





In Which I Achieve Gastronomic Bliss, All Before 3:00 PM

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Gentle Reader,

A short update, because I forgot the camera.  No food pics today.  Don’t worry.  I’ll get better at remembering the camera.

Went to get Georgian food for lunch today (I HAD BEEN IN TOWN FOR SIX DAYS AND HADN’T HAD ANY YET.  IT WAS AN EMERGENCY.) and now I’m in need of a nap.  Observations:

1.  The Russians now know I am completely insane, because I ordered two bottles of water WITH ICE.  (“WITH ICE WITH ICE WITH ICE WITH ICE” because sometimes they don’t understand that and you have to convince them you are serious.)  The interior super-heating here coupled with ALL OF THE CLOTHES, means I’m like half-dehydrated all the time and I hate leg cramps.  Total of the two bottles of water (the Bonaqua, not the nice stuff)?  More than the rest of the lunch.  Worth it.  The ice?  Happy as a clam, am I.  But I don’t normally make a fuss about ice-I use my Ugly American points on other things.  (Except we haven’t hit August and a lack of iced tea yet.  I reserve the right to revisit this decision.)

2.  Harcho?  Sigh……this is what the Greeks were REALLY talking about when they talked about ambrosia.

3.  My mushroom soup?  A close second.

4.  Chicken with walnut sauce?  MMMMMMMMMM…

5.  Cold eggplant in the hands of a Georgian may be the best vegetable, ever.

(5b.  No, not my kind of Georgian.  I asked for some mustards and got SOMETHING VERY DIFFERENT, INDEED.)  (I kid.)

And since I have no pictures of here, I’ll leave you with a pic of the Most Sincere Face:



I miss My Boy.



This Time, With Photos!

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Gentle Reader,

I think I may be starting to get used to the time differences, and perhaps the fact that it’s still dark at 9:00 in the morning!  Today I woke up early enough that I had time to get fancy in a dress and tights and jewelry before going into the office.  (Full disclosure:  It was just my monogram set that has been out on the table since I got here.  BUT, as we all know, monograms make everything better.)  AND, I had time to take some pics of the apartment before I walked to school.

The apartment is in the process of renovation, and I may or may not have totally unpacked yet, let alone made the bed, oh, EVER.  So there were obviously some parts that I will skip in this photo tour.  Such as the interior.  But hope can spring eternal, and maybe later this week you can see the super-sweet bathroom.  (Which right now looks like a super-sweet bathroom with a giant pile of eyeliner, mascara, and various moisturizer products in the middle of it.)

Brief aside:  I NEVER understood why all the fuss about waterproof mascara.  Who ARE all these people doing all this swimming and wanting to have full eyelashes while doing so?????  Why do we want to have to pull at our eyelashes every night in an attempt to remove the awful stuff?  Regular mascara and go, ladies…  

But, Not.  Any.  More.  This cold weather?  I leave the apartment fresh and cute and with GOOD hair (I have never experienced a bad hair day in Moscow, mainly because they haven’t discovered humidity yet here.) and walk FIVE MINUTES to the school.  And I arrive looking like the end of a Nicholas Sparks novel.  I do not understand this phenomenon, but the TEARS.  Oh.  The tears.  I *heart* my BeneFit “Yes, They’re Real”, but I desperately need them to make a waterproof version right now, thankyouverymuch.  I imagine the poor folks in New England right now are with me on this.

Second brief aside:  This?  I’m.  In.  Love.  It’s awesome.  Go get some, you need it.  I think it’s really funny that the little buckthorn plant in Siberia (whatever it’s called, people…) gives its all, gets shipped to the states, ordered by me, and hauled back to the Motherland.  For cheaper than it would be to buy the stuff here.  

(Another funny for the day…Sephora’s site is loading too slowly for my tastes to be able to link here.  So I impatiently googled, “Fresh Siberian Oil” to just link directly to the Fresh site…TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT MEANINGS FOR SIBERIAN OIL!!!!!!)

Back to the apartment tour:

Looking up, from the outside:



Looking out, from the balcony:




(At what I thought was one of the Wedding Cakes in the distance but now I see is just a really pointy top of some other building.)

The courtyard in the middle of the block of apartments:



J, J, and A?  This one’s for you:



(Yes, I know.  One of the Wellies has not been unpacked yet.  Lay off me-it’s not like it’s been warm enough to need them.  😉 )

And finally, when installed, I do believe the apartment will have what appears to be a 5 person washer:



Obviously, 5 tinier people than me.  Confession-I have NO idea what the buttons on any washing machine over here mean.  My laundry system here involves mashing buttons until the machine turns on.  Proper fabric settings remain largely aspirational.  And the machine above seems to dispense entirely with words and labels on the buttons, so I have the feeling that my wool sweater dress is about to become a wool midriff top.

And with that, I’m going to log off.



This Just In From The Obvious Desk

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Gentle Reader,

I’ve been so tired since I’ve been here.  In other breaking news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.  Obviously, I’m still jet-lagged.  I woke up at something like 3:00 AM this morning RAVENOUS.  Like, had to eat or I would not be able to get back to sleep. (I have no idea.)  Anyway, I ate a frozen dinner (The flat I’m in for now doesn’t have a kitchen yet, which is a hilarious story of Russian subcontractors and kitchen remodelers, so all I have is a microwave and fading hope of a real kitchen.  And dish soap in the bathroom.) that was every bit as delicious as the frozen dinners back home, with less certainty as to what I was actually eating.  There was rice and sauce and some kind of meat.  And then I went back to sleep.  I would have taken a picture for you, but I was tired and it was rice and sauce.  Mister Rogers says it’s important to use your imaginations, people.

So I was thinking today about WHY I was so dang tired all the time.  Other than the fact that I have no idea what day or time or country in which I am located, I mean.  And it finally dawned on me this morning…

I am no longer in The Great Republic.

In other breaking news, it’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

But the realization was in that I have to think VERY HARD when I am out and about here–the alphabet, the words, I have to learn these things because this is my home for now.  And if I don’t actively MAKE my brain think about it, my mind blanks when I am out.  It kind of goes into this numb zone where I don’t really understand anything and I’m in my own world.  [Insert funny and obvious comment about my usual state of consciousness here.]  So in trying to start to understand, I have to keep my brain “on” all the time.


Bless the sweet waitress today at lunch who politely tolerated my attempts to order pho and juice in Russian before she quietly steered me-in perfect English.  I got apple juice instead of orange juice.  Which is fine because I actually ordered apple juice and have no memory of what I really intended to order.  Darn faux amis.

Which brings up the other really fun part of language for me.  My “foreign language set point”, the setting my brain goes to when subconsciously it recognizes that I’m not in my home tongue, is French.  I have spoken so much French in the last four days (Four days?  How long have I been here?) that I feel like I finally have earned that French minor I got in college.  And nobody understands me in that language, here, either.  ACES.

But Mama and Daddy?  Finally getting some ROI on that undergrad investment!

More deep thoughts tomorrow.



Wordie Goes To The Store, Hilarity Ensues

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Gentle Reader,

I’m here!  It’s cold.  IT SNOWED ON MY FIRST NIGHT HERE!  I’ve decided that I can be excited about snow for awhile.  Apparently this excitement will last until approximately March.  At which point it will be replaced by a feeling you didn’t learn about in Sunday School.

Anyway-yesterday I went shopping for a blowdryer and hot rollers (you know, the essentials) and then some basic groceries.  The trip to the store that sells the electronics entailed the Metro.  I had forgotten.  OH!  I had forgotten.  The Escalators.  And here we have our first Tale of Public Humiliation For Your Entertainment.  (Because it had already been a whole 24 hours since I had arrived…I think we all lost money on THAT bet.)

So here, you buy your Metro Card, and then you stick it in your purse or your coat pocket and you eventually get into a handy little rhythm where you kind of hip-check the card reader thing that lets you onto the Escalators of Faith.  

I have lost my rhythm since last trip.  

And my abs STILL hurt from the grey gates that slam out when you try to go through without paying.  OW!  (OWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!)

The good news is that the Dude With The Gun likely recognized that I was not a native, and let me through after I successfully hip-checked the card reader and after only a few minutes of rapid explanation of something I didn’t quite understand.

The wifi is not yet installed in the flat yet, so I’m at the mercy of the [place where I work] wifi.  So I won’t try to overwhelm it with my usual detailed analysis.  I haven’t yet gone to Red Square this trip, I hope that happens tomorrow night after class because it’s stunning at night and I’m pretty sure you’d appreciate seeing pictures of that rather than the American brand TP that I found last night.  Though there was a happy dance in the Cheap Grocery Store by the flat, let me tell you.  (There is a Cheap Grocery Store which equates to approximately Dean and Deluca prices with Chevron Station quality, and then there is the Nice Grocery Store which is where I had to go to find my olive oil last night.  I am not completely up-to-speed on my conversion rates but I think I just cashed in my entire retirement plan.  Upshot?  They put it in the bag for me.)  Anyway-I did the rest of my shopping focusing on buying Russian things because I’m here to eat Russian food, not expensive and likely stale American imports.

Except I have no idea what I bought.  I think I bought some kind of rice dish, and some kind of soup.  And some kind of salami.  I KNOW that was cheese that I bought.  (And by “KNOW”, I mean, “I’m kind of thinking it because it looked vaguely familiar and the label was in French so I could kind of triple-translate.”)  (Also, for the very first time uttered by any human, ever, “THANKS, GOD, FOR THE FRENCH LABELING LAWS!”)  And I bought yogurt, because I actually recognized and read that in Russian and understood it in Russian and I’m calling that a victory.  (And those of you who actually speak Russian-do not rain on my parade on this front.  I’m still calling it a win.)

And on that note, I’m going to end for today.  I know Andy’s busy and doesn’t have time to read too many words.

Photos?  I’ve taken three.  For your enjoyment:





And to answer your question, I have no idea, either.  But those are apartment buildings (of which there are many) on the outskirts, from the air.



An Update On All The Things

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Gentle Reader,

Not a long update tonight, but I did want to check in with you.  I’ll give you an exhaustive recap of what happened in between November and Now.

1.  WAH!  Packing is a younger person’s game.  But I got packed, and sent some stuff to storage and some stuff to The Ranch (which will be my permanent place for the foreseeable future), and nobody committed any felonies in the process.  In related news, my Mama is truly the best human, ever.  Hands down.

2.  Thanksgiving happened.  We had two turkeys for the crowd, and some stunning gravy, if I do say so myself.  And I do.

3.  ZOMG, winter stuff is expensive.  I have a few hats, several scarves and two pairs of mittens.  And I now have two winter coats.  One is a brilliant red lambswool, and the other is a plain black, “sleeping bag”, coat as Mama calls it.  I think that’s all I’m going to need.  I hope that is all I’m going to need because the winter gear?  It’s crowding out the other stuff in my luggage.

4.  I have a passport and a visa.  There was drama, there was laughter, there were tears.  Basically a summation of human existence in two short (read: inexhaustibly long) governmental transactions.

6.  I have a ticket!  And I didn’t have to sell a body part to get it!  I leave on Friday, January 17.  Otherwise known as, “Less than two weeks away”.

7.  Christmas happened.  Santa brought me an iPad Air.  And speakers to go with it.  Santa was generous and dug deep considering he had already bought me a winter wardrobe.

8.  Holy cow, boots are expensive.  But I have four pairs now (including some Wellies that I may or may not gaze at every day and clap with excitement because I NEED WELLIES!  It never rains enough here to need them.  These are stunning, in a lilly blue color, and I’ll photograph them in situ the first day it gets warm enough to wear them.).

9.  I have been feverishly researching moisturizer.  Input desperately requested.  I wound up with the L’Occitane Ancienne and their basic night cream.  And the Fresh Siberian Buckthorn oil.  Other suggestions?  I also picked up the Fresh Umbrian clay bar-because it is apparently very soothing.

10.  I mean, really, how cold can it be there, really?  This isn’t going to be so bad, right????

11.  Then the thing at the train station happened.  I have thoughts.  Sometime when I’m not dying of the Plague, I’ll share.

12.  The Boys and I have snuggled.  A lot.

13.  We ran OUT of natural gas here at the Ranch.  Which was GREAT fun when trying to cook, shower, and stay warm.  Thankfully, our tank has been refilled, and the dude knows to check it more frequently since apparently we use more natural gas than anybody else, ever.

14.  I had my first moment of self-doubt about the decision I made.  I honestly think this is okay, because if I hadn’t had that, I would be concerned I hadn’t properly thought through and internalized this insanity.

15.  To rectify and feel a bit of control, I sat down with a map of Moscow, in Cyrillic, and made myself find the metro stop for the school, and then the street that the school is on.  All by myself with no cheating.  And it wasn’t in the part of the city I would have thought it was.  So I found it. If push comes to shove, I now know I can get to somewhere that people know me.  And then, when I started freaking out (look, I’m gonna own my neuroses here, people…and it’s not like the news that I am in any way neurotic and twitchy can possibly shock or surprise any of you) about “What if I can’t find the grocery store?”, I took a breath.  There are baked potato carts on literally every street corner in the city.  And the corners that don’t have potatoes, they have blini stands.  So I’ve got cheap, easy access to carbs.  And, in the worst case scenario, I made myself find the metro station where I lived last time.  It’s a single entrance/exit metro station (there are some that aren’t, and it is HILARIOUS when I leave via the wrong door of one of those…) and there is a grocery store within the line of sight at the entrance.  So I have ready access to basic food supplies there.  There are better stores within the city, but this has basic food and nourishment, if I utterly could not find any other food stores.

16.  If there is anything that I am good at, it is shopping, procuring, and eating.  I’ve persevered and been able to shop under some pretty adverse circumstances that would make mere mortal shoppers crumble.  But it’s nice to have a backup strategy since I really do speak not much of the language and the alphabet is really quite foreign to me.  It’s not like I can even really guess at it by looking for homophones.  I still instinctively “see” the Western alphabet sounds when I see “B”, or “H”, for example.

17.  Please do not think that my having a contingency plan, that I am questioning my choice or that I expect to ever have to use it.  I have always felt quite safe in Moscow, and I know people there, and I’m actually picking up on their alphabet quite nicely, even from here.  But I will be REALLY far away from my family, and if something Terrible happened, the travel rules mean that it would be a few days before anybody could get to me if I needed them, so a plan is only prudent.

And now, you’re caught up.  🙂

More later.  Moisturizer suggestions, please!